Legacy of faith is his gift to posterity
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KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii One Sunday morning in about 1930, a young man in his late 20s walked into a small LDS branch on the Big Island of Hawaii. Hoping to remain anonymous, he slipped onto the back row during a fast and testimony meeting. He wasn't there to investigate the Church. In fact, he had been a member for three years. He was there to ask the branch president to remove his name from Church membership.
He sat quietly as young and old stood to bear their testimonies in their native Hawaiian. Then the young man heard someone admonish members of the congregation to seek the knowledge of the gospel, and said that the Prophet Joseph Smith had taught that man cannot be saved in ignorance. Something stirred deep in his heart.
"There's more to the Church than meets the eye," he thought quietly to himself. "I will give it another whirl."
And he did just that. Although his children today chuckle at his commitment to "give it another whirl," they are grateful he did and that he never looked back. William K. Sproat and his wife, Beatrice, were sealed in the Hawaii Temple (now the Laie Hawaii Temple) in 1939. He later served for 28 years as district president and watched as the Church here grew from a few small branches to 14 wards and one branch in two stakes the Kona Hawaii and Hilo Hawaii stakes. The some 6,000 members here also have their own temple. The Kona Hawaii Temple was dedicated Jan. 23 by President Gordon B. Hinckley. (Please see Jan. 29, 2000, Church News.)
Today, the now-97-year-old Brother Sproat is known in Polynesia as a "kupuna," Hawaiian for "grandparent," or an "elder of respect and honor" something rare in a world where respect for one's elders is growing dimmer. He has a posterity of six sons and a daughter who reared their 30 children in the gospel, and those children are rearing their children in the faith. (Beatrice Sproat died in 1966; three of their sons are also deceased.) Many Sproat descendants are serving missions and marrying in the temple. They've served in district, stake and mission presidencies; as bishops, high councilors and stake presidents.
"Thanks to him," Dale G. Sproat, 73, of the Kohala Ward, Kona Hawaii Stake, said of his father. "I'm ever grateful to him for staying in the Church. As we were growing up, we wanted to do all the right things."
Brother Dale Sproat, who is now also known as a kupuna and who has served as a counselor in district, stake and mission presidencies, is one of two Sproat children to make his life on the island. He and his wife, Leialoha, reared five children who all served missions. He smiles, however, when remembering how his father one day pointed at his sons from the pulpit, using them as an example. "Look," he declared, "they are by the door and will be the first out!"
"Needless to say, I never sat on the back row again," Brother Sproat related, laughing.
He speaks with reverent emotion of his father's influence on his and others' lives. "He had a great influence in helping the Church grow here. He was into every club in the community Lions Club, PTA. Everybody knew him as a member of the Church. They called him 'deacon.' He was the kind of man the Church needed."
And the kind of man his posterity needed.